The Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage is a research center of the Smithsonian Institution. We work with communities in the United States and around the world to encourage the understanding, appreciation, and vitality of humanity’s diverse living cultural heritage.
Every summer since 1967, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival brings together artisans, musicians, cooks and storytellers from around the world on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., for performances, workshops, and demonstrations of living cultural expression.
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the institution’s nonprofit record label, representing the collections and productions of nearly two dozen companies and organizations, documenting the diversity of the world’s musical and spoken-word heritage and creativity.
The Cultural Vitality Program works collaboratively with communities around the world to support the sustainability of homegrown forms of cultural and artistic production, especially in the areas of language, Indigenous culture, and craft.
As a public resource, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections is home to hundreds of thousands of videos, films, photographs, sound recordings, and field reports that document cultural traditions, maintained with a commitment to digital accessibility and shared stewardship.
Our research is grounded in a community-oriented approach, shaping the rich programming of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the Mother Tongue Film Festival, the releases of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, and our Cultural Sustainability initiatives. Our curators and scholars, drawn from folklore, anthropology, ethnomusicology, and a broad range of cultural studies, are distinguished in their practice of collaborative research and representation.
Over decades of research and production, we have created educational materials for cultural professionals, educators, and casual learners, including lessons plans, documentation handbooks, learning guides, and online exhibitions.
Folklife Magazine explores how culture shapes our lives. We publish stories about music, food, craft, language, celebrations, activism, and the individuals and communities who sustain these traditions.